Football Concussion Injuries: Who’s Liable?
Football fans may have heard about the many legal battles fought against the NFL and NCAA this year and in very recent years. Concussions and other brain injury accidents are very common among athletes, so where did the controversy come from?
Awareness of a progressive degenerative disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) began in the mid-1990s. CTE is caused by repeated blows to the head, such as those that occur in football, boxing and rugby. Symptoms typically appear 8-10 years after the period of head trauma and include:
- memory loss
- impaired judgment
- loss of impulse control
- progressive dementia
Since the disease is definitively diagnosed post-mortem, knowledge of its prevalence has unfolded gradually.
In late 2014, researchers with Boston University announced that in autopsies of 79 brains of former NFL players, 76 had tested positive for CTE. As of November 2016, 90 of 94 former NFL players had been diagnosed post-mortem with CTE.
Brain Injury Risks May Have Been Covered Up
In 1994, the NFL formed the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) Committee for the purpose of studying the effects of concussions and sub-concussive injury in NFL players. However, the chair of the committee was admittedly under-qualified and the collected data was discovered to be “deeply flawed“.
The NFL ended a class-action lawsuit brought by 4,500 personal injury claims with a $900 million settlement. Their willingness to settle out of court for such a high amount has led many to speculate what other incriminating information might have been uncovered in court.
Justice for Brain Injury Accident Victims
There are still numerous lawsuits pending against the NCAA. It’s alleged that schools and conferences have known for years about the harmful long-term effects of sports-related concussions, but concealed the information in order to maintain a high profit. They have been accused of encouraging players to return to the game after suffering concussions.
Though players must typically sign a release acknowledging the dangers of high-contact sports, “waivers of liability and releases don’t relieve a proprietor from liability due to wanton or willful misconduct”, to paraphrase a judge in this article.
Is Your Child at Risk for a Sports-Related Concussion?
Unfortunately, concussions are extremely common with high school athletes who suffer thousands of them every year. Football accounts for 47 percent of all reported high school sports concussions, with ice hockey and soccer following up.
The Center for Disease Control researched and released the following concussion-related statistics:
- 3,800,000 concussions were reported in 2012, double what was reported in 2002
- 33% of all sports concussions happen at practice
- 1 in 5 high school athletes will sustain a sports concussion during the season
- 33% of high school athletes who have a sports concussion report two or more in the same year
- 4 to 5 million concussions occur annually, with rising numbers among middle school athletes
A concussion is identified when the individual’s mental status changes as a result of trauma (usually a blow to the head). A person who shows signs of mental confusion has likely suffered a concussion. Signs and symptoms of a concussion may include:
- Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
- Confusion or feeling as if in a fog
- Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event
- Dizziness or “seeing stars”
- Ringing in the ears
- Nausea, vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Delayed response to questions
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Appearing dazed
When a concussion is suspected, the symptoms should not be ignored. Do not allow your child to return to play until he or she has been medically evaluated by a qualified health care professional.
If you or your child has already suffered from a sports-related injury, it may have been due to negligence on the part of the school, the conference, or the coach. Contact our office for a free consultation with an experienced brain accident lawyer.